…reflect the idiosyncratic (odd) nature of the musicians and May’s ability to define a vision that is so all-embracing, enthusiastic, and warm.

Discus: DISCUS168CD

Theo May: Violin and Compositions; Gustavo Clayton Marucci: Bb and Bass Clarinets; Will Bracken: Piano; Ali Watson: Double Bass; Alex Temple-Heald: Drums; Francesca Brito, Jan Halen: Violins; Cubby Howard: Cello; Daniel Swani: Flute

Recorded 2022 at Buffalo Studios by JB Pilon and 2022 at Dock Street Studios by Tom Corsadden

Depending on your experience of music, the opening notes of ‘Voyager’ (the first track on this album) might evoke the spirit of European folk music – or, for me at least, ‘Smoke on the Water’… This is not to denigrate the music on this sparklingly eclectic set of tunes, so much as to highlight how often and how easily May is able to wrong-foot the listener.

So many of the pieces work along parallel paths that occasionally intersect but more often move in different directions, keeping diverse ideas alive, but always run together.

It is, perhaps, not a coincidence that the set begins with ‘Voyager’ as a way of introducing an approach to music-making that takes such delight in the journey (rather than the destination) of a composition, travels across so many musical traditions and countries, and reaches out to explore novel ways of bringing familiar instruments together.

While Deep Purple was clearly not relevant to listening to ‘Voyager’, May is not averse to hinting at, or wholesale quoting from, other music. ‘The Joy of Nine’, track 7, includes lines from Vaughan-Williams, ‘Kopanitsa’, track 9, uses a rhythmic pattern from Bulgarian folk dances, and ‘Solemnity’, track 3, has a more opaque hint of the playing of Louis Sclavis.

May’s ‘Odd Unit’ comprises musicians who comfortably straddle the discipline of classical music, the looseness of improvisation, and the swing of jazz and this creates another sense of ‘voyager’ as the musicians drift between the comfort of their own musical idiom into different waters.

The result is a collection of tunes that superficially might be classified under the vague heading of classical-folk-jazz chamber music, but which reflect the idiosyncratic (odd) nature of the musicians and May’s ability to define a vision that is so all-embracing, enthusiastic, and warm.